Posted 9th March, 2017

An Interview With Jake Johnson - American Flat Track Rider

With the 2017 American Flat Track season starting at Daytona Bike Week next Thursday, the Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Racing Team recently announced their new three-rider squad for 2017 which includes former champions Kenny Coolbeth Jr. and Jake Johnson, who will be racing alongside young star Brandon Robinson in the legendary Factory Team colours. Twice AMA Grand National Champion, and Texas Tornado Boot Camp instructor, Jake Johnson kindly took a little time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions for The Cafe Racer.

How is your preparation shaping up for the 2017 American Flat Track season?
It's been going pretty well. The weather hasn't been very great here in Pennsylvania for riding though. Too warm for any ice riding yet too cold and wet for the dirt but I've been spending a lot of time in the gym. I'm sure there are a lot of people that may not believe that (I'm not typically known to be much of a "gym" guy) but I feel like I'm going into this season more focused and serious than ever before.

You have been riding at an elite level for a good number of years now, does your approach to a season now vary much from your Rookie year?
My approach hasn't varied very much throughout the years but I am getting a little bit older now and the competition is getting tougher every year. So my training has ramped up a bit this off season but the goal is still the same; win races and make a run at another championship.

american flat track racingYou have been announced as a Factory Harley rider for 2017, what do you know about your new machine?
I've had a little bit of testing on the new XG750R. It's based off of Harley-Davidson's Street 750...on steroids! The XG750R was pretty impressive from the first time I sat on it and we've made some serious gains in a short amount of time. We have unbelievable support behind us with Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Vance and Hines, and an amazing crew with Brent Armbruster, Steve Polk, Josh Sutter, Shahab Sakha, Dave Smrekar, and long time friend Mike Hacker as rider coach/set-up specialist. So I have no doubt we'll be a threat this season.

What does a race week consist of for you?
I've never been much of a "routine guy" so it's kind of hard to describe what goes on during the week for me. I pretty much just wing it from week to week and do what feels good. Whether thats riding during the week or If I'm starting to feel a little burnt out, I'll just do something fun that may not even involve motorcycles. My old racing buddy Paul Lynch just reminded me of something recently, "A happy racer is a fast racer" so thats what I'm going to do. Work hard but have fun!

How does riding for a Factory effort vary from an independent team?
I'm not going to lie, it's quite a bit more pressure. Not so much from the team, I'm putting more pressure on myself but I feel that is a good thing. It has given me a lot more motivation and I'd like to think I perform better under pressure.

Jake Johnson unveils his Harley racerDoes 2017 offer your best chance for a title since your last win?
I think so. We have a great team and great bikes. Everyone is working so hard to give us the best chance. It's not going to be easy though. There are a lot of other talented teams and riders that we're going to have to battle week in and week out. I'm excited to give it everything we have to try and bring Harley-Davidson a championship on the new XG750R.

What does American Flat Track need to do in order to grow in the US?
I feel it is growing and we are at a very critical spot right now. There are a lot of eyes on American Flat Track racing and we all need to deliver a great product. We have a lot of change happening with teams, riders, and rules which adds excitement. American Flat Track is working hard to better the show even more but I feel we need to be careful not to stray too far from our roots and remember what got us to where we are today.

On a similar note, what are your thoughts on the recent Moto America ownership of AMA closed circuit racing?
They've done a pretty good job so far reviving what was once a great series that almost ended up in the dumpster. I really think they're in a similar position as American Flat Track and being right on the verge of great things. I could be overly optimistic but I think professional motorcycle racing in the US is on the rise.

With events such as the Superprestigio and a growing appeal in the UK due to the DTRA series, do you think flat track now has Worldwide Championship appeal?
I think it would take a little while to put together a world championship. I feel there's plenty of great flat track talent around the world but the equipment varies a little bit too much right now. In the US the premier class is on Twins with 19" wheels and the rest of the world is primarily 450's and a mix of 19" and 17" wheels. So the big question would be which direction to go and getting everyone on the same page. Flat track is growing worldwide so anything is possible. It would definitely be really cool to see happen.

If you're based in the UK and would like to learn more about Flat Track racing then we would suggest picking up a copy of SIDEBURN and getting in touch with the DTRA. It wouldn't hurt to pick up a beautiful 250London shirt, too!

Jake sliding his bike

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